Hooking rhythm to lyrics Local band Saffell debuts its first full-length album

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Saffell Sproul has been writing music for over 10 years, but for the first time ever, it’s made it’s way into a full-length album, set to hit the airwaves Oct. 7.

Petaluma-based Sproul’s band, Saffell, is releasing “Devil’s On The Radio,” a 12-song album following the band’s two shorter EPs — the result of the band members’ last couple years playing together.

Sproul, the band’s vocalist, pianist and namesake, who wrote all the music and lyrics on the 12-track recording, leads the indie rock band. Other band members include: Bill O’Donnell on drums and Matt Pasquale on bass, who has taken over for Aiden Collins, who is the recorded bass player on the album.

Produced by David Rubinstein, featured songs on the album include the title track, “American Piano,” “We the Blind” and “Back Home.” “Devil’s on the Radio” was tracked at Prairie Sun Studios in Cotati and engineered by Matt Wright. It was mixed by Andy Zenczak at Gadgetbox Studios in Santa Cruz and mastered by Roger Seibel at SAE Studios in Phoenix.

For Sproul, writing music starts off with an improvisation of the notes, followed by lyrics.

“I sit with a wide open palette, running through chords, until I find something that hooks me, and then I start improvising lyrics over it,” Sproul said. “I like using rhythm with syllables, so I figure out how I want the syllables to work — then the lyrics come.”

For the lifelong musician, improvisation is important for “finding that special thing that comes out of free play,” Sproul explained.

Sproul was born in Petaluma, raised in Novato, and currently calls Petaluma home again. He graduated from Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz with music major and has studied under musician Doc Collins for more than a decade.

His musical background started in fourth grade when an old piano awed him with “its miles of black and white keys,” he said.

Having written music for more than a decade, Sproul said he has plenty of music to fill another couple of albums.

“I had not been able to be satisfied with recordings because they were home recordings or demos, so my body of work kept growing,” he said. “It’s unique for me — a lot of bands are always writing for their next album.”

Not every part of maintaining a band is so easy, however. Competing with tons of other bands trying to “make it” in a world where everyone has access to a music publishing platform — not to mention the Internet — is a challenge, Sproul said.

“The market is saturated; there’s a lot of noise,” he explained. “The days of the record company are sort of gone. Now, before a record company even looks at you, you have to already have a following, an album, etc. — things the record label used to help you with — and you’re not making money, you’re trying to do this with your day job.”

Sproul himself was trying to balance his life as a musician with his day job as a contractor for years, until he decided to simplify his life for the sake of the ability to make music. He and his wife built a yurt — a small, basic round living structure — on his family’s property to eliminate paying rent. Now, he’s able to handle most of the business side of things during the day while his bandmates work their own jobs and play at night.

Not that his bandmates aren’t helpful with the business and operations side. Drummer O’Donnell works for a wine label maker, and has facilitated the band’s limited release of a case of special cabernet sauvignon labeled with the record’s cover art. Several bottles will be raffled off at a release party for the album, which will happen Friday, Sept. 19, at 9 p.m. at Zodiacs, 256 Petaluma Blvd. North.

Sproul is hopeful about the future of his band.

“I had a recent sound-man tell me, ‘Wow, you guys are a hard-hitting piano trio,’” Sproul said. “People expect jazzy, loungy music but then are realizing that we have down beats, are danceable, and R&B-, funk-, rock-infused — we get down.”

Cost for the launch party show is $10. For more information, call 773-7751 or go to zodiacspetaluma.com.

The band, who is represented by Second Octave Talent in Petaluma, also recently launched a new website at saffellmusic.com.

(Contact Annie Sciacca at argus@arguscourier.com)

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